An interesting series of letters between Rebbi Akiva Eiger

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					                     YESHIVAT HAR ETZION

                     TALMUDIC METHODOLOGY
                     By Rav Moshe Taragin

            Methods of Performing Sefirat Ha-omer

     The previous shiur explored the nature of sefirat ha-omer
through the prism of an interesting dispute regarding writing
the count of the omer on a given day. We raised the following
question: does the Torah demand that we calculate time to
anticipate the precise moment of Shavuot's arrival; or is our
counting additionally geared toward creating some identity for
the intervening period? This shiur will further examine that
issue by studying a second dispute: can a person fulfill the
sefira requirement by listening to another's counting?

     Typically, a person can listen to a text instead of
actually reciting it and thereby fulfill his or her halakhic
obligation to recite the text; the principle of "shomei'a ke-
oneh" renders the listener as equivalent to the speaker. When
one listens to berakhot and oaths with the proper intention,
one is considered to have personally iterated them. Would the
same allowance apply to sefirat ha-omer?

     The Ritz Giat (Rabbi Yitzchak Ibn Giat, author of an
early medieval work which cites many positions of the Geonim)
asserts that shomei'a ke-oneh would apply equally to sefira,
and, certainly, logic dictates this position.   If the mitzva
of reading Megillat Ester can be performed through listening,
certainly the mitzva of sefirat ha-omer should accommodate a
similar practice, listening in place of actually reciting the

     However, an intriguing gemara in Menachot may contradict
this position.    The Gemara (65b) interprets the term "U-
sfartem lakhem" (Vayikra 23:15) to mandate "sefira le-khol
echad ve-echad," a counting process for each individual.

     Many Rishonim understand this as a mandate for private
counting, rather than a public representative counting on the
part of the beit din.    After all, counting the years of the
shemitta cycle is also a mitzva, but one which devolves upon
the beit din rather than upon each individual.    As such, the
derasha of "sefira le-khol echad ve-echad" does not legislate
the METHOD of counting but rather the level of obligation
(communal or personal). In truth, the very issue of pubic and
private counting may reveal the nature of sefira.         Were
sefirat ha-omer designed merely to monitor the passage of time
and accurately set the date for Shavuot, it would have been
structurally identical to counting shemitta cycles and setting
yovel accordingly; as such, it would have been in the domain
of the beit din, which acts representatively for the entire
people.   By stipulating a personal counting, "sefira le-khol
echad ve-echad," the Torah may be assigning this mitzva a
function beyond time-calculation; it may be casting this
process as one which establishes the inherent identity of the
period.    However, this reading of Menachot yields nothing
about applying shomei'a ke-oneh to sefirat ha-omer.

     However Rashi's gloss on Menachot 65b, s.v. Le-khol,
"That every individual is obligated to count," has led some to
maintain that he demands that each person PERSONALLY perform
sefirat ha-omer, rather than relying upon the principle of
shomei'a ke-oneh.    A work known as Chiddushei Ha-Rashba al
Menachot (though not authored by the classic Rashba, Rabbeinu
Shelomo ben Adderet) attributes just such a position to Rashi.

     In many ways, the basic nature of sefirat ha-omer impacts
on this question.    Logically, listening should constitute a
valid performance of the mitzva.       By demanding personal
fulfillment of sefirat ha-omer, what message is the Torah
sending about the mitzva?        If the mitzva consists of
announcing a certain day's count (and designating a certain
quality to that day thereby), listening to that formula should
be tantamount to reciting it, through the principle of
shomei'a ke-oneh.   However, if the mitzva merely demands the
calculation of time (performed in an active manner by speaking
or perhaps writing), perhaps the mechanism of shomei'a ke-oneh
would not be relevant.   For example, many authorities do not
apply shomei'a ke-oneh to shofar sounds, since, unlike
berakhot and oaths, there is no ACTUAL text; perhaps shomei'a
ke-oneh is only applicable in instances where a specific text
exists.   Shofar sounds do not comprise an actual text, and
listening to them is not tantamount to actually sounding them
personally.    Those who deny shomei'a ke-oneh for shofar
articulate the mitzva of shofar as listening rather than
actively creating a sound; indeed, this is the form of the
berakha we recite before blowing the shofar, declaring that
God "commanded us to hear the sound of the shofar."         By
hearing someone else blow the shofar, one performs the base
mitzva of listening to shofar sounds, but one is not
considered to have created the sound, since shomei'a ke-oneh
only applies to texts.       A similar logic may disqualify
shomei'a ke-oneh for sefirat ha-omer: since the mitzva does
not require any proclamation or formal designation, but merely
active time-calculation, no distinct formula or text exists
for sefira. In the absence of any text to voice, shomei'a ke-
oneh cannot apply!

     Of course, this issue raises an interesting question: is
there, in fact, any distinct required formula for counting the
omer? The Gemara (Menachot 66a) maintains that we must count
both weeks and days (as both are mentioned in the Torah).
Many Acharonim rule that if one counts days only, omitting
weeks, one still performs the mitzva. However, the Shibbolei
Ha-leket (Ch. 234) indicates that in such a case, the entire
counting may be flawed and must be repeated (see the Peri
Chadash, O.C. 479, who amplifies this position). Apparently,
some authorities DO formalize a phrasing for sefirat ha-omer,
while others insist that any active counting which effects
proper time-calculation is sufficient.

     A similar question addresses the need to recite "Today is
day X of the omer." Must the person actually recite the word
"Today" or merely recite the appropriate number?    The Mishna
Berura (489) cites a position of the Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav
(the original Lubavitcher Rebbe) that one who counts the omer
without beginning "Today" has not fulfilled the obligation. A
similar idea MAY be inferred from the words of the Taz
(ibid.), who discusses a case where a person casually informs
another of the day's count before the latter has performed the
mitzva.   Usually, such information constitutes counting, and
the informer may no longer count with a berakha (hence the
custom to inform an inquirer of the previous day's count).
The Taz claims that if the informer conveys the current day's
count, but does not actually enunciate "Today is day X," he
has not yet fulfilled the mitzva (and may still count with a
berakha).   Evidently, he also believes that the term "Today"
is an essential element of counting sefira.    Had sefira been
designed merely to mark the passage of time, it would be odd
to demand a proclamation relating to the current day. Merely
maintaining the arithmetic continuity (by mentioning the next
number) would be sufficient!

      Presumably, the presence of a specific formula would
indicate a concrete text, to which one could apply shomei'a
ke-oneh.    The presence of a formulated text may further
reflect a function to sefirat ha-omer beyond merely tracking